Even as Sen. Barack Obama found himself under fire from the Hillary Clinton campaign over what she called his “naive” intention to meet with leaders of countries hostile to the U.S., the presidential hopeful praised the recent court decision overturning one city’s attempt to protect itself from hostile foreigners filling their streets with drugs, crime and gangs as “a victory for all Americans.”
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Munley overturned Hazleton, Pa.’s “Illegal Immigration Relief Act” in a 206-page opinion that declared states and municipalities have no authority to stem illegal immigration.
As WND reported, Hazleton passed an ordinance July 13, 2006, to deter housing owners from renting to illegals in an effort to reduce the crime and drain on city services associated with a large influx of illegal immigrants.
Hazleton Mayor Louis J. Barletta, an immigrant’s grandson who pushed for the strict laws last summer after two illegals were charged in a fatal shooting, said he wanted to make his town of 30,000 “the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America.”
“What I’m doing here is protecting the legal taxpayer of any race,” he told the Washington Post. “And I will get rid of the illegal people. It’s this simple: They must leave.”
Not so fast, ruled the court, denying Hazleton – and other cities that followed its lead, some legal experts suggest – the ability to police a problem the federal government has refused to address.
“Even if federal law did not conflict with Hazleton’s measures, the city could not enact an ordinance that violates rights the Constitution guarantees to every person in the United States, whether legal resident or not,” Munley wrote.
Munley also wrote that Hazleton’s law was at odds with current federal immigration policy, which he said avoids “excessive enforcement” against illegals so as not to jeopardize foreign relations. Hazleton, he said, failed to consider “the implications of the ordinances on foreign policy.”
“The anti-immigrant law passed by Mayor Barletta was unconstitutional and unworkable – and it underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform so local communities do not continue to take matters into their own hands,” he said.
“Recently, the U.S. Senate failed the American people by blocking progress on immigration reform for the second time in two years,” he added. “We cannot put this off any longer. The ongoing problems with our immigration system are dividing our country, and distracting us from the work we need to do in other important areas such as health care, education and jobs.”
The bill blocked in the Senate, however, was widely opposed and, according to polls, supported by only 22 percent of Americans. Characterized as “amnesty” by its opponents, the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill failed to provide the kinds of enforcement measures Hazleton attempted to include in its ordinance.
Obama, addressing the National Council of La Raza’s annual convention in Miami Beach last week, called the debate that defeated the Senate immigration bill “both ugly and racist in a way we haven’t see since the struggle for civil rights” and pointed to his marching in the May 2006 immigration rallies in his appeal for the group’s support.
“Find out how many senators appeared before an immigration rally last year,” he said. “Who was talking the talk, and who walked the walk – because I walked.
“I didn’t run away from the issue, and I didn’t just talk about it in front of Latino audiences.”